First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes — depression?
Wait … that’s not how it’s supposed to go. But unfortunately, for some, that is how it goes. While many newlyweds are blissed out, others are hit with the post-wedding blues, which can be debilitating.
And very real.
Now there’s research to back it up.
Laura Stafford, a professor and director of Bowling Green State University’s School of Media and Communication, and Allison Scott Gordon, associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s Department of Communication, have conducted two studies on depression in newly married women.
In a 2016 study of 28 women, nearly half indicated they felt let down or depressed after their wedding. Some of them even reported clinical levels of depression. In a 2018 study of 152 women, 12 percent reported feeling depressed after their wedding.
A bad wedding is not to blame.
In Scott Gordon and Stafford’s first study, none of the depressed (or “blue”) brides linked their feelings of depression or letdown to the wedding itself.
“For even blue brides, the wedding appears to have lived up to their expectations,” they wrote.
Some form of a letdown after the big day is common, said Jocelyn Charnas, a New York psychologist.
“Like any milestone we look forward to, a certain degree of difficult feelings, whether it’s emptiness or loneliness or sadness, is not uncommon after the fact,” she said. “And the more pressure and expectations, the harder the letdown can be.”
It’s not just brides who suffer from a newlywed nosedive.
“I was so depressed, I honestly didn’t know what to do,” Brian Lambert said of his emotional state after his marriage last year. “We had no appointments with vendors, no centerpieces to put together, nothing to try and design. I found myself going to the office on the weekends more to try and keep myself busy.”
Here are some tips to soothe the post-wedding blues.
• “Focus on the beginning of the marriage, as opposed to the end of the wedding,” Charnas said. Otherwise, it’s too easy to mourn the loss of a big event on the horizon. “Having something so huge to look forward to is a real motivator,” said newlywed Shira Andres. “It flashes by in a second, and that hits you like a ton of bricks.”
• While planning their wedding, couples should pick one night a week to not discuss it. That way, Charnas said, they can remember what it feels like to be a couple without a big event on the horizon.
• Schedule your honeymoon strategically. Charnas suggested waiting to take the trip because it gives newlyweds something else to look forward to and plan.
• If you’re still feeling blue after six months, seek help. “Post-wedding depression is typically situational — something happens that results in the depression, like a death or divorce,” said marriage and sex therapist Jane Greer, who wrote the book “What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship.” “But within six months, the expectation is that you’re coping with your depression and getting on with your life.”
If the depression goes on beyond half a year, there’s likely more at issue than just the wedding.
“When it manifests itself in a severe way, it’s more about some underlying and possibly pre-existing issue, like a clinical mental health issue or a serious underlying problem in the relationship that has to be looked at,” Charnas said.